When it comes to stealth games, I can accept the stretch on the limitations of reality to allow the character I’m controlling to gain the upper hand. For instance, in Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I always upgrade Adam Jensen with the Augmentations that gives enemies vision cones and allows him to see through walls. Actually, maybe in that scenario, it works fine within the fiction. Also take Mark of the Ninja, where you can use Focus to freeze time and better survey the environment, especially when most of it is shrouded in shadow. Truthfully, I’m not asking for much, but having a slight perk above your enemies makes dealing with them and the situation all the more fun.
None of that is the case with Monaco: What’s Yours Is Mine, a deceptively tough stealth action indie title from Pocketwatch Games and Majesco Entertainment that puts pressure on co-operative play for success. The game has four main story campaigns, two of which tell the same story but through different styles. You can choose from eight pixelated characters, all of which have unique abilities: the locksmith, the pickpocket, the cleaner, the lookout, the mole, the gentleman, the hacker, and the redhead. Just by the names alone you might be able to figure out their perks. Certain characters are better suited for specific levels, though I’ve only gotten to play the first few levels in the opening campaign story at this point, using mostly the locksmith and mole.
So, Monaco is presented via a top-down view of blueprint style levels where players can only see things through their “line of sight.” Everything else is shrouded in a thick, gray fog that indicates where rooms are, but not the details within. Unfortunately, your character’s vision cone is narrow and limited, offering up only a tiny slice of what is ahead of you, making it extremely easy to walk through wires or even right into guards on patrol. You can unlock doors, hack ATMs, and hide in bushes by simply pressing up against them, waiting for a meter bar to fill. There are also weapon pick-ups, such as smoke bombs and C4, scattered throughout the level, which you can use against nosy guards.
I got a copy of Monaco some time back for the PC, though I couldn’t tell you how it ended up on my list of Steam games. Probably some kind of bundle. I played through a level or two before determining that this style of infiltration gaming was not for me. For September 2014, it’s now free for Gold members on the Xbox 360, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to try one more time. Well, I got just as far as I did on the PC–the bank heist level–before putting the controller down. I really do struggle with seeing the big picture of the level, and the moment a guard spots me, I just panic and run around like a headless chicken. There’s something not connecting with my eyes and brain, especially when a lot of the mission objectives and tips are presented within the level, hidden until you swing your vision cone over them.
It sounds like Monaco is intended to be played cooperatively, with friends. I don’t have three other friends I can invite over, and so there’s an option to link up with strangers via Xbox Live. Eh…no thanks. I’m not one for putting on a headset and chatting with new people in a game that clearly requires teamwork and strategic planning. From what I’ve gathered through forum chatter, a lot of problems crop up with co-op play in that everyone just runs ahead and does what they want, setting off alarms left and right and leaving every other player to fend for themselves.
Monaco certainly has a cool style to it, but part of that style inhibits the gameplay. For me. Others seem to have no problem whatsoever, and goodie for them. But it’s why I struggle with horror games, of not knowing what is ahead and to the left and right and even behind my character. Or it is like those mirror mazes, where I have to take it slow and one step at a time, unsure of what is only a foot in front of me; the last one I did was both a mirror maze and clown-themed, and I was in my early twenties and I’ve still not gotten over the experience. Perhaps I’ll try some online heisting–though I refuse to bust out a headset–and perhaps I’ll attempt another solo run, but regardless I just don’t think this is the stealth action I’m looking for.